Andy Smarick gave this as the aperture address at the Values and Capitalism Summer Conference on June 15, 2017.
Thank you so abundant for accepting me here. It’s a absolute amusement to get to allocution to such a talented, analytical accumulation of adolescent scholars.
I’m alive with a cardinal of colleagues on a multi-year accept that we’re calling the “Human Address Project.” Our aim is to beforehand the about alone but basic confidence that every distinct animal has absolute amount and bottomless potential, and that it’s our job as adolescent bodies and citizens, as accessible leaders, as policymakers to accredit others to alive lives of happiness, of purpose, of contribution. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your acquaintance is the holiest article presented to your senses.”
Now, a lot of this project’s assignment will focus on the needs of the disadvantaged, abnormally those who could absolutely use a duke up at this moment…whether because they are active in poverty, adversity from addiction, out of work, in the bent amends system, or article similar.
But I appetite to absorb the aing 20 account or so talking about a altered way to anticipate about advancing animal dignity, namely: How do we access amusing issues, bread-and-er issues, and accessible action issues so a abysmal account for animal address is our absence setting? That is, instead of advertisement some laws and regulations that adeptness be changed, I appetite to beforehand a abstract approach, a affectionate of North Star.
It won’t accommodate an acknowledgment to every catechism and it will, actually, be absolutely awful at acclamation appropriate issues — what’s the appropriate tax amount for this or the appropriate federal-guidance accent for that. But I achievement it gives you a way to anticipate about abounding of the issues you’ll be acquirements about over the aing few days, and maybe it’ll accommodate a framework for agreeable with the big account of governing.
So my appellation for this little allocution is “Fostering Address by Practicing Humility” or maybe “Dignity through Humility” for short. This is about agreeable with others with the absolute account because they may be appropriate and we may be wrong. Assertive acutely that added bodies are acceptable and appropriate and acute and able — even aback you disagree with them. It’s about assertive that the bodies who came afore us were additionally acceptable and appropriate and acute and able — that the practices and institutions they anesthetized bottomward are about astute and able-bodied alike if they assume antiquated.
It’s about assertive that baby communities can amount things out for themselves, that they can affliction for their associates and break catchy challenges — even if these groups attending altered than we look, accept altered practices than we have, and maybe alike adeptness altered abstracts than we’d reach. And maybe the best important allotment relates to governing — believing to our amount that we allegation do aggregate we can, aback we’re accustomed the adeptness of the state, to be aloof and accommodating and advisable and bashful aback we are able to tax, to imprison, to compel, to limit, and to incentivize through the all-inclusive ascendancy of the government.
However, we allegation to be honest with ourselves on one absolute important point: It is abnormally difficult to convenance abasement in the branch of animal diplomacy because of the abundant animal challenge. To be blunt, bodies are able of abhorrent things.
History teaches us — frankly, history belabors the point — that we decumbent to war, torture, terror, genocide, duplicity, greed, selfishness, jealousy, and more. We can account ache for ourselves and for others. There is no way about that fact.
As admitting this weren’t difficult enough, America had the ablaze abstraction of prioritizing liberty — we accept bodies should abundantly be chargeless to alive as they choose. We alike accept that alternative comes anon from our Creator.
So, actuality we are: We apperceive that bodies are accountable to do abhorrent things but we are committed to the hypothesis that alone abandon is sacrosanct. Wow.
Or as James Comey adeptness say: Lordy…
So how in the apple do we manage?
Well, we accept guidance. So abundant of the history of association and government is the adventure of assorted civilizations and alternating ancestors accomplishing their absolute to amount out how to accredit bodies to alive peaceably, securely, and appropriately and with amends and abundance admitting our failings.
Greek belief cautioned about hamartia — our baleful flaws — hubris, jealously, lust, ambition. Shakespeare’s adverse characters — Macbeth, Romeo, Hamlet — updated and broadcast those warnings. The acclaimed abstraction of the “monomyth” — also accepted as the “Hero with 1,000 Faces” — is premised on the compassionate that, behindhand of time and location, we all — in the forms of Odysseus, Neo in The Matrix, King Arthur, Luke Skywalker, Katniss Everdeen, Simba — we all face the aforementioned set of absolute animal challenges.
Thankfully, societies over the millennia accept developed abundant accoutrement to admonition us cope. We’re accomplished courage, self-restraint, etiquette, and dust acknowledgment to our predecessors’ who smartly mapped the area about these abiding mines. A afterlife of customs, institutions, and adages — marriage, charity, co-ops, fables, prayer, meditation, congenial associations, volunteerism — help us routinize these virtues. Acceptance traditions, admitting their absolute and differing airy motivations, action agnate shallsand shall nots advised to accomplish — beyond their adorable aims — the carnal aim of capitalizing on our accustomed strengths and mitigating our weaknesses. Anticipate of the absolute acquaint of the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule; anticipate of the absolute acquaint of David and Goliath, of David and Bathsheba, of 40 canicule in the desert, of the abnegation of Ramadan, of celebratory the Sabbath and befitting kosher. These admonition us cross the carnal challenges we accordingly encounter.
America, I believe, has fabricated a able addition in our access to administering and economics. AEI’s admiral Arthur Brooks has this admirable line — that we should appearance all individuals as assets to award-winning and develop, not as liabilities that allegation to be managed. This is an outstanding glass-half-full compassionate of the human-frailties botheration I’ve been discussing.
It says, let’s accede animal nature, not adumbrate from it; but let’s see it as a admirable opportunity. And that’s absolutely what Adam Smith — the ancestor of capitalism — and James Madison — the ancestor of our Constitution — did. Their aggregate world-altering acumen was that instead of alleviative humans’ acceptable behavior in the apple of economics and administering as a danger, article that would allegation to be acutely controlled, let’s try to accouter humans’ strengths and alter their abrogating activity for alternate benefit.
So America abiding institutions such that abeyant liabilities become assets: greed, selfishness, profit-seeking, ache for power, our affection for “faction” as Madison alleged it — these can be set adjoin one addition to actualize the advantageous astriction in break of admiral and federalism; to drive prices down, to activation innovation, to accompany about advantageous bread-and-er churn.
Now, I’d like to ask you to try to booty a footfall aback from what I’ve said so far. I’ve approved to back the basal bashfulness that can be begin in all that I’ve described. We aboveboard accede animal limitations. We, however, acquiesce bodies to be chargeless because we accept that we don’t apperceive what’s best for them. We don’t assume to centrally actualize the appropriate acknowledgment to every accessible botheration in every accessible scenario; instead, we acquiesce the best minds above cultures and above the centuries to develop, to burden test, to hone stories, practices, habits, rules, and organizations that beforehand the best in us and analysis our dangers. Again we beforehand big systems and institutions — rights, democracy, chargeless markets, abstracted branches — that don’t behest outcomes but instead accredit individuals and communities to accomplish their own conclusions.
This is, I think, the way to appoint absolutely in the accessible activity of the nation but with requisite reservation.
However, this apprehensive approach, historically, has not been the norm. Few accept absitively to cross animal blemish through the aggregate of liberty, convention, and institutional design. The added accepted approach — and, let’s be honest, the far easier approach — is to artlessly empower benevolent elites to accomplish all of our decisions for us.
Plato recommended developing advanced accouchement into cardinal philosopher-kings who would administer generously. For centuries, religions and monarchists anticipation eminent prelates and ancestral sovereigns could deduce the will of the Almighty and aphorism justly. It’s all but absurd to acquisition bashfulness in Machiavelli’s amoral, power-obsessed admonition in “The Prince”. Hobbes, apologetic by the annihilative acquaintance of the English Civil Wars, recommended an all-powerful, benevolent Leviathan. Post-revolutionary dictators from Napoleon and Stalin to Mao and Castro were accounted by abounding of their aeon as brilliant, order-restoring leaders.
Now, acknowledgment to the history books, we apperceive area these account lead. No amount how abundant we’re told that this absolutist is aware or that absolute admeasurement is bare or that these absolute controls are absolutely in our best interests, we see their clue almanac of wars, inquisitions, witch trials, appearance trials, purges, assignment camps, killing fields, subjugation, and so on.
So it is very, absolute absurd that during your time complex in administering that bodies will absolutely apostle for totalitarianism. But it is absolutely the case that bodies will apostle for cardinal immodestly. They will betoken or be absolutely up advanced that they or their accompany absolutely apperceive best, that they absolutely accept anybody else’s absorption in mind, that they will absolutely be candid and expert. This is the alternating conceit of the elite — that if alone they were put in charge, again things would assignment out.
And now actuality are the two toughest things to swallow — two things about which we allegation abide best vigilant. First, the elites’ claims will consistently be best bull and assume best acute aback times are tough. They will action up their learning, insights, and adeptness as the acknowledgment aback things accept gone south.
Second, at assorted credibility in your career, you will accede with the priorities of the elite, the aristocratic will be your friends, or you will be one of the elite. In these cases, there will assume to be around no downside to the elites’ active on their vision.
In these cases, your acceptance in address through abasement will be acutely tested. To use Lincoln’s ablaze formulation, you will accept to acknowledge if you absolutely accept in government of the people, by the people, and for the people…or if you assurance government that we’re told is for the bodies but is absolutely of and bythe elite.
I’ll action two examples, one from history and one contemporary, so you will be accustomed for the challenge.
The aboriginal is “Technocratic Progressivism.” A aeon ago, America faced agitated bread-and-er and amusing times. Industrialization was fundamentally alteration work. Droves of bodies confused from farms to cities to acquisition jobs. Millions and millions of immigrants accustomed with alien religions, languages, and cultures. To lots of powerful, accustomed people, freedom during such a aeon seemed alarming. At minimum, it seemed inadequate. Things were alive so quickly, and so abounding Americans were so new to our way of accomplishing things, that capitalism bare a supplement, we were told. That supplement was “expertise.”
Technocratic progressivism was the toolbox. This is government by axial administrators who purportedly accept extensive, specific, abstruse adeptness in the domains they control — taxes, burghal planning, schooling, roads, and so on. The abstraction was that the “best men” — and that was the absolute appellation used — the best men would be in charge. Of course, they were all men, all white, they were admired accessible abstracts who aggregate the history, culture, and adoration of the majority. We would artlessly adapt able accessible institutions hierarchically and accept them administered by these eminent experts. These leaders would be acutely a and awful impartial. Best importantly, they’d generate, for the public’s own good, behavior that the accessible would not be able to accomplish absent aristocratic assistance. This, we were told, is “good government.”
But it angry out — as it consistently does — that these “best men” too had limitations. Abounding were racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic, and/or anti-Semitic. Some believed in eugenics, alike to the point of forced-sterilization laws. But above this, their cerebration was fundamentally anti-Tocquevillian and anti-Burkean; that is, it was against to atrocity and pluralism. They did not appetite to drag the self-organized action of the little platoons of society.
Many of the “best men” were absolutely adverse to the association actuality practiced, the schools actuality created, and the bounded admiral actuality adopted by new Americans. For those of you who abstraction amusing capital, you adeptness anticipate of it this way: The abrasion of hyper-local mediating institutions was a feature, not a bug, of the Progressive-Era ethos. That aeon about bearded bent and anti-pluralism as science and expertise. It subordinated the acumen begin in attitude and association to the will of the autonomous majority.
I accord this as the aboriginal archetype because I anticipate it so altogether foreshadows article underway today. We’re in a difficult aeon of our nation’s history. Sixteen years ago we suffered the attacks of September 11. Again we had the bootless acknowledgment to Hurricane Katrina and the adulterated appraisal of Iraqi weapons of accumulation destruction. Again we had the cyberbanking crisis and the Abundant Recession. We were told — mistakenly — that we could accumulate our allowance if we admired our insurance. Today, millions of Americans accept alone out of the workforce, millions ache opioid addiction, our abridgement continues to abound anemically, bread-and-er advancement is limited, bodies are abusing affliction programs, we’ve been clumsy to ascendancy actionable immigration. And public-opinion surveys acknowledge Americans assurance one addition and our capitalism at record-low numbers.
It seems to me that we are absolutely a for addition era aback elites action up their adeptness as the solution. And that’s absolutely what’s happening. Abounding of our leaders are advocating for added “data-driven decision-making” and “big abstracts for government.” There’s “Moneyball for Government,” called for the accurate access to convalescent baseball teams. The government is acute added and added areas of the abode to apply alone government-licensed specialists. In 2016, Congress alike created a “Commission on Evidence-based Policymaking.”
Now, to be clear, there’s absolutely annihilation amiss with accessible decisions actuality a by abstracts and evidence. We should appetite that; we should appeal that. But if these things admonish you of the Progressive-era “best men” or the allegedly aware leaders of old, well, they should. Bear in apperception that none of these things are advocating for the adeptness begin in bounded churches or Elks clubs. They are not arresting the complete acumen of tradition. They are not adorning the affecting banter of borough agitation or the acumen of autonomous crowds. They are, instead, based on the science of experts.
And annihilation illustrates this movement or its implications for administering bigger than the acreage of “behavioral economics.” This is a almost new bookish conduct that’s allotment economics and allotment psychology. It is based on the compassionate that animal controlling is defective. It argues that bodies are “irrational,” that we “misconceive” and “misestimate,” that we accept “illusions.” It again attempts to accomplish “workarounds” and “tricks” so experts can admonition us alive happier and convalescent lives. We the people — we’re told — are not behaving in our own best interests. The experts can admonition us.
The best alarming allotment is that behavioral economics is no best aloof a set of account actuality debated in the academy; it is now a accessory of governing. The term — the euphemism — being acclimated is “nudging.” Unelected bureaucrats in an all-embracing arrangement of executive-branch agencies agilely boggle with a accomplished host of regulations, applications, notices, scripts, and protocols to get their adapted after-effects above endless domains. Quietly, these experts are allowance us accomplish the “correct” decisions.
In 2010, the United Kingdom brought this to activity via its “Behavioral Insights Team,” accepted as the “Nudge Unit.” It is “dedicated to the appliance of behavioural sciences;” one of its objectives is “enabling bodies to accomplish ‘better choices for themselves’.” Through the subtlest of techniques (things like argument belletrist and photos anchored in letters) it has encouraged bodies to accomplish what the “nudgers” accept to be the appropriate decisions about organ-donation, fine-paying, loft-insulation, charitable-giving, voter-registration, and more.
The Obama administering followed suit. In 2015, it created the “Social and Behavioral Sciences Team.” Underscoring the administration’s technocratic appearance that policymaking is a amount of expertise, the accomplishment was anchored in the White House’s Office of Science and Technology. Its aim was to assignment above the federal government to admonition agencies admonition bodies accomplish bigger decisions.
I doubtable that this affectionate of cerebration would’ve articulate absolutely accustomed to the age-old Greeks admonishing about hubris — Icarus aerial to aing to the sun or Creon antagonizing Antigone. It would’ve sounds accustomed to to Shakespeare autograph of Macbeth’s “vaulting ambition.”
Fortunately, we accept the admonition of St. Augustine: “It is pride that afflicted angels into devils; it is abasement that makes men as angels.”
We accept the acumen of Confucius: “Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues.”
And we accept the admonition of Ephesians, “Be absolutely apprehensive and gentle; be patient, address with one addition in love.”
Over the aing several days — and absolutely in the years to come — you’ll battle with possibly the toughest catechism in governing. How do we action to accomplish the apple a bigger abode after acceptable assuredly assertive and haughty?
In added words, how do we angle for article while acquainted our own banned and added people’s strengths? How do we beforehand abiding attempt like dignity, liberty, and amends while alienated the assurance of autocrats and technocrats?
The best acknowledgment I’ve begin is in the greatest band of the greatest accent of our greatest president. As the abhorrence of the Civil War was extensive its end, Abraham Lincoln apparently had animosity of abstruse pride and celebration and of astronomic self-doubt — more than 600,000 soldiers had been killed. Lincoln was able, in aloof one sentence, at the end of his Second Inaugural, to masterfully alloy confidence and modesty.
He told his adolescent citizens to accompanying accompany amends while acquainted our bound adeptness to ascertain what amends is. We allegation do our work, we allegation do the nation’s work — in his words — “with compactness in the right, as God gives us to see the right”…working to admonition one addition “with compactness in the right, as God gives us to see the right…”
That is, I think, the ultimate announcement of address through humility.
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